U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew is expected to announce this week that the face of Alexander Hamilton will remain on the $10 bill, and a woman will replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill, senior government sources told CNN Money on Saturday.
Last summer, Lew announced that the treasury was considering redesigning the face of the $10 bill to include the portrait of a woman that would be unveiled in 2020. The historic redesign would be an answer to more than a century of women campaigning for a woman to appear on a note for U.S. currency. The Obama Administration gave the idea its full support last June.
However, no one at the treasury could have anticipated the sudden upsurge in the popularity of Hamilton, and soon fans of the late founder of the Federalist party let their indignation be known. More than 200 years after his untimely death, the sudden support for Hamilton and maintaining his image on the $10 bill came from a most unexpected source.
According to the New York Times, the pro-Hamilton movement really began to pick up steam after the success of the wildly popular hip-hop Broadway musical Hamilton, based on the life of the Founding Father and former Treasury Secretary.
“When we started this conversation not quite a year ago, it wasn’t clear to me that millions of Americans were going to weigh in with their ideas,” Lew told CNBC. “We’re not just talking about one bill. We’re talking about the $5, the $10, and the $20. We’re not just talking about one picture on one bill. We’re talking about using the front and the back of the bill to tell an exciting set of stories.”
Widespread public pressure in the wake of the musical led Lew to change his mind and leave Hamilton’s face untouched. Instead, a mural featuring depictions of the women’s suffrage movement will be printed on the back of the bill.
Now, Lew is expected to announce this week that a less-beloved U.S. President – Andrew Jackson – will be replaced by a woman. Jackson’s presence on the $20 bill has long been controversial due to his treatment of Native Americans. Though the identity of the woman has not been revealed yet, CNN said their government sources indicated it would be a woman who represented “the struggle for racial equality.”
Unfortunately, even if the anticipated changes to the $10 and $20 bills are announced, because of the complexities of the process the earliest we will be likely to see one of these redesigned bills will be in a few decades, according to CNN.
“‘The soonest that a new $20 note will be issued is 2030,’ the source said, citing a lengthy process convened by the Advanced Counterfeit Deterrence steering committee, which includes representatives from the U.S. Secret Service, the Treasury, and the Federal Reserve. That process isn’t likely to be sped up by the Federal Reserve, which issues the currency, given the work that goes into designing secure technology to thwart counterfeiters.”
Notably, the blue security ribbon currently printed on $100 bills took 15 years to develop. The latest technology is used in thwarting counterfeiters who are likely to target such commons bills as the $10 or $20, and the Federal Reserve is not in the habit of expediting issuance of currency due to popular demand, or popular musicals at that.
And Hamilton is a very popular musical, as the Chicago Tribune says. This may be the first time in history that a Broadway show has impacted U.S. currency.
“‘Hamilton,’ which takes an admiring look at the founder of the United States’ financial system, debuted on Broadway 9 months ago. It’s gripped the country so deeply with the story of Alexander Hamilton that some tickets are going for $1,365 per seat on the resale market.”
While some fans of the Federalist Papers and of Hamilton the musical might be pleased by Lew’s backtracking, women’s rights groups are less than amused.
The group Women on 20s wrote a highly critical open letter to Lew, published in TIME.
“Nobody looks at the back of the bill, and that’s not likely to change. A vignette without a woman’s portrait on the front of the bill (even if she must share with Hamilton) will be seen as a token gesture and an affront to Americans of all ages who are expecting you to reveal your choice of a singular woman based on their input. As a friend of ours put it, relegating women to the back of the bill is akin to sending them to the back of the bus. The Rosa Parks analogies are inevitable.”
A spokesperson for the U.S. Treasury declined to comment on the pending changes to American currency.
[Courtesy Of Treasury Department/Newsmakers) (Photo By Getty Images]